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Hymns Ancient and ModernFew worship artists undertake a project of re-recording classic hymns of the Christian faith. Under the prompting and vision of Louie Giglio, the Passion organization set out to record a live album of worship that would display the hymns front and center. The familiar team of musicians—Matt Redman, David Crowder Band, Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin, and Nathan and Christy Nockels-converged in Atlanta, GA, to engage in this marriage of past and present, hoping to create a musical moment that would extend deep into the future.

As a whole, and in accordance with their intentions, they meet success. Most of the songs invoke a contemporary sound while maintaining the devoted nature of the hymns—a purpose that just might make the original composers nod their heads in agreement. David Crowder Band's version of the Doxology and Christy Nockels's "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" succeed extremely well. Guitars crescendo then decrescendo to a quiet conclusion in "Doxology," and Nockels's voice soars with the grandeur of the rich language: "Praise to the Lord / Oh let all that is me adore Him / And all that hath life and breath / Come now with praises before Him / and let the Amen sound from His people again." When Nockel breaks into "Alleluia," her vocals soaring with the instrumentation, she invokes all the emotion and passion that the original hymnist wanted to portray. Charlie Hall also does well in "Father, Let Me Dedicate" and "Here is Love." On past Passion projects I haven't taken time to enjoy his songs, but they shine like gems on this recording. The bridge of "Here is Love" has Hall and Nockels singing, "No love is higher / No love is wider / No love is deeper / No love is truer / No love is higher / No love is wider / No love is like Your love, oh Lord." It's another moment of the CD that sends either tears down your cheeks or goosebumps up your arms. Either way, this song moves your heart to worship.

So will the song "Hail Gladdening Light," performed by Chris Tomlin. The words are taken from the "Phos Hilaron", an ancient hymn dating before the 4th century A.D. The early Jewish Christians would sing this hymn during an event called the "lighting of the lamps." According to tradition, a candle was kept in the empty tomb of Jesus, and its flame was consistently maintained to represent the everlasting life of the Savior. Worshippers would gather around the tomb, the candle would be brought out into the gathering, and praise would commence. One can almost hear our ancestors singing, "Hail gladdening light / Sun so bright / Jesus Christ / End of night / Alleluia." Yet to my dismay, the original text was altered to fit into a modern worship song. I suppose they felt this needed to be done to complement a musical meter, yet it felt wrong to deconstruct such an ancient expression of faith.

Having not grown up on the hymns, I enjoyed this collection; I was able to sit with the words and digest the full meaning. These past writers embraced a richness that is sadly often missing in contemporary songwriting. Hymns Ancient and Modern will serve as a good contribution to anyone's CD rack, for it showcases how adoration of the past can age into present and future melodies of praise.
- Hollie Stewart
October 2004
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